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The Good, the Bad, and the Childless

The Politics of Female Identity in Maternité (1929) and La Maternelle (1933)

Cheryl A. Koos

This essay explores Jean Benoît-Lévy and Marie Epstein's box-office success La Maternelle and their lesser-known Maternité in the context of interwar debates over women's roles in society. Reflecting natalist-familialist conceptions of motherhood and femininity, the films magnified three pervasive cultural icons in French social and political discourse: the monstrous, childless "modern woman," the exalted mother, and the "single woman" who fell somewhere in the middle. As both products and vehicles of these tropes, La Maternelle and Maternité not only illustrate how popular cinema disseminated and justified certain value-laden assumptions about female identity in the late 1920s and early 1930s; they also reveal the limitations of French feminism and socially-engaged, progressive art of the period.

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Diederik F. Janssen

I am pleased to introduce Boyhood Studies, Volume 11, Issue 1. This issue’s authors unanimously invite an appreciation of the many regional, temporal and contextual inflections of manliness-in-the-making. After all: “Among boys, as among men, there are ‘all sorts and conditions;’ environment moulds them” (Anon. 1890: 147). This merits a bit of intercontinental timetravel. Ecce puer: from Lord Baden-Powell’s and American contemporaries’ middle ages to late nineteenth-century Mexico’s French Third Republic, back to Baden-Powell and into the Great War, and back again to presentday Mexico. In Mexico, on both visits, we are travelling back and forth as well, between the rural and urban experience.

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Civilization versus Barbarism

The Franco-Prussian War in French History Textbooks, 1875–1895

Jörg Lehmann

In French history textbooks published after France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871, the presentation of the war and its outcome frequently include the myth of France's revanche and depictions of the Prussian enemy as barbarians. Other textbooks presented a narrative of progress in which the French Third Republic is shown as the endpoint of a process of advancing civilization. While the idea of a French revanche can be regarded as a founding myth of the Third Republic, the narrative of progress can be seen as an echo of this myth, cleansed of the concept of the enemy as barbarian, which constitutes a national master narrative.

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"La Dérive Bergery/The Bergery Drift"

Gaston Bergery and the Politics of Late Third Republic France and the Early Vichy State

Diane N. Labrosse

In July 1940, Gaston Bergery composed the founding document of the Vichy State, the Bergery Declaration, which called for a "renaissance" of France, domestically and in terms of its relations with the New European Order. It also offered one of the first clinical autopsies of the French Third Republic. Bergery's status vis-à-vis the end of the Third Republic is important in two interrelated respects. First, his political career is indicative of the taxonomical problems of French politics between the two World Wars and during the early Vichy regime. Second, his seminal role in the creation of the Pétainist state speaks to the French political upheaval of the late 1930s, when party lines and ideological adhesions were broken and re-formed in an unpredictable manner. His principal historical importance is based upon his status as one of the most notable representatives of the cohort of left wing pacifist and anti-communist politicians who rallied to Vichy.

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David A. Bell Qu’est-ce qu’un Français? Histoire de la nationalité française depuis la Révolution by Patrick Weil

Judith Stone To Be a Citizen: The Political Culture of the Early French Third Republic by James R. Lehning

K.H. Adler Vichy in the Tropics: Pétain’s National Revolution in Madagascar, Guadeloupe, and Indochina, 1940-44 by Eric T. Jennings

Tyler Stovall Childhood in the Promised Land: Working-Class Movements and the Colonies de Vacances in France, 1880-1960 by Laura Lee Downs

Donald Reid Workers’ Participation in Post-Liberation France by Adam Steinhouse

Mark Kesselman Pour une critique du jugement politique: Comment repolitiser le jeu démocratique by Dick Howard

Michael S. Lewis-Beck Ces Français qui votent Le Pen by Nonna Mayer

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Jean Elisabeth Pedersen

“What is a nation?” Ernest Renan’s famous rhetorical question to an audience at the Sorbonne on 11 March 1882 has remained vital for a wide variety of scholars in fields as diverse as history, literary criticism, sociology, philosophy, and political science. Renan initially posed the question barely ten years after the close of the Franco-Prussian War, which had sparked the establishment of the French Third Republic, the unification of Germany under the leadership of Wilhelm I, and the transfer of the disputed territory of Alsace-Lorraine from French to German control in the months between July 1870 and May 1871. Renan made no overt mention of these events while he was speaking, but he rejected any possible answer to his question that might attempt to base the creation of nations and national identities on shared “race, language, [economic] interests, religious affinity, geography, [or] military necessities.” This explicit refusal constituted an implicit rejection of the entire range of German justifications for the acquisition of the two recently French border provinces.